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Blue Angels coming to Billings in 2023, pilot talks about teamwork

Posted at 12:20 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 14:20:39-05

The Yellowstone International Air Show will feature the Blue Angels at Billings Logan International Airport, on Aug. 12-13, 2023.

A former Blue Angel helped make that annoncement on Thursday and says with the military aircraft and the crew, it's all about teamwork.

"We spent a lot of time practicing together," said retired Brig. Gen. Kendall "Thumper" Switzer. "A lot of time flying, a lot of time debriefing together. It was fun to be part of that team where you come together, you fly this intense air show for people. It's hard. It's difficult. It's never perfect. And you're always trying to do better."

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Switzer served and flew in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy.

He calls the Navy's Blue Angels, the ideal team in the military.

"We would like in the military to have all teams that way," Switzer said. "When we fly together in the fleet, you'll have a lead and a wingman. They're normally about 10 feet apart. And the Blue Angels will train this to be three feet apart or maybe even a foot and a half. A honed team concept. That is the demonstration of how the military works."

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Switzer, who lives in Bozeman, says that type of teamwork can also help civilians.

"Setting self aside and looking at a bigger picture for a mission of trying to do really really well and honoring the men and women around you," Switzer said. "You know, treating them with respect, allowing their input to be heard. Listening to their input."

He says it's different than other millitary missions.

"So the Blue Angels, we felt very blessed.," Switzer said. "In fact, we have a saying in the Blue Angels after every time we get together and we debrief, we say we're glad to be here. And the reason why we say that is we feel very fortunate to do what we're doing, But you know what? We're in peacetime. We always try to remind ourselves that we are very glad to be here because there's a lot of other people out there working pretty hard in the military."

The men who made the announcement about the Blue Angels coming to Billings also draw inspiration from the teamwork and the military.

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KTVQ photo

"It makes your heart beat a little faster and not because it's scary," said Jake Penwell, co-chair of the air show and a veteran. "But because you have so much pride. It's America. These are the folks that are defending us."

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KTVQ photo

"It just gives you an absolute proud feeling of being an American in that patriotic level," said Matthew McDonnell, co-chair of the air show. "I don't know what's cooler than hearing jets fly around and going, you know, go America."